Chatani Takes Manhattan
Graduating senior Minali Chatani 13 GD grew up in Montego Bay, Jamaica “surrounded by beach, land and one local pharmacy that has everything anyone living on an island could need.” She also has the independent spirit and self-sufficiency typical of island dwellers. But at RISD her practical, client-oriented design style really took shape through the interdisciplinary, business-oriented Entrepreneur class co-taught by adjunct faculty members Bill Foulkes and Oren Sherman 78 IL.
In fact, Chatani got so much out of the course – which focuses on various paths to making a living through creativity – that she essentially took it again a year later by signing up as a teaching assistant. “That class completely changed the way I think about design and process,” Chatani says. “And it has influenced everything I’ve worked on since.”
Chatani had a sense from a young age that she was cut out to study art. She learned about RISD through her mother, a jewelry retailer who traveled to Rhode Island every year for a big commercial jewelry show. “She said I would love it here, and she was right,” Chatani recalls. “RISD was absolutely my top choice.”
Chatani’s original plan had been to pursue an abiding interest in art directing fashion magazines, so after Foundation year she quickly chose to major in Graphic Design. But her first career doubts surfaced last summer when she interned for Cosmopolitan magazine in NYC. Much to her surprise, working at the big-name lifestyle magazine wasn’t nearly as creative as she had hoped. “I felt like I was designing the same spreads over and over again,” she admits.
As a senior, Chatani began to seriously consider other options that would enable her to make good use of her growing abilities as a graphic designer. In March she was eager to present her portfolio at the Career Center’s Design Portfolio Review, and met specifically with representatives from J. Crew and Bloomingdale’s. Based on the strength of the work she presented, she landed what she says feels like the job of her dreams – as a junior graphic designer in Bloomingdale’s NYC-based Special Events department. In June she’ll join a team that designs collateral for events and new store openings – everything from special invitations to press packages to seasonal shopping bags.
“It seems like a job where I’ll be able to keep learning even after leaving RISD,” says Chatani. “And I’ll be creatively challenged, which is really important to me.”
Equally important is ensuring that the transition from school to work is as seamless as landing a promising position, which means finding an affordable place to live. Just prior to graduation, Chatani reports that she’s closing in on a one-bedroom apartment within walking distance of her new office. She plans to share the space with her parents, who still live in Jamaica but frequently travel to New York on business. “I didn’t apply for any jobs outside of New York,” she says, “because I have a great group of RISD friends in the city and a ton of family nearby.”
In the long run, Chatani expects she may want to return to school for an MBA – meaning she’s especially excited that Bloomingdale’s offers a tuition assistance program. “The benefits are great,” says the happy senior, “and I don’t see myself leaving there anytime soon!”